Title: The Girl the Sea Gave Back
Author: Adrienne Young
Pub. Date: September 3, 2019
For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.
For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.
This will be a spoiler free review and potentially a bit rant-y, so bear with me. I also want to thank NetGalley for providing a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.
I want to start this off by saying, I did not read Sky in the Deep and I also did not realize that this book is a sequel/companion novel to it. I thought it was just a new fantasy by the same author. I definitely don’t think you need to have read Sky in the Deep to read The Girl the Sea Gave Back The author summarizes and recounts in brief detail what happened in the first book, to give enough context – i.e. there was a long time feud between two clans, they fought, there were some demon-ish hordes they also fought against and it united them. (That’s super brief and definitely not wholly accurate, but you should get the point).
This book unfortunately fell short for me. When Sky in the Deep came out I wasn’t really interested in reading it, and I can’t say I’m any more interested now. There was a brief moment towards the start of the book that I was contemplating reading it, but not after how this one ended. This wasn’t a bad book per se, but I felt kind of lost and confused through the whole thing. It was hard for me to picture the world, the characters, the whole plot felt rushed and almost like we were dropped into the middle of the story…and I guess in some ways I was.
I was just left with this overwhelming feeling of meh, it could’ve been better. Maybe my expectations were unreasonably high from 1) not having read Sky in the Deep and 2) the raving reviews I’d heard about her debut. I guess on some level I expected this to be some amazing Nordic inspired fantasy, and it just wasn’t.
The time jumps that happened in this book are probably my biggest complaint besides the unbelievable romance (which I’ll get to in a moment). If done correctly (and to me, in this case, they were not) should benefit the plot, add to it, giving necessary bits of information crucial to the plot. So, other than some not so crucial backstory, they served no purpose to otherwise pull me from the main narrative. Every single time there was a time jump into the past to divulge some teeny aspect of one of the main character’s pasts, I was pulled from the story. It was annoying and more than once it made me want to stop reading. It took me days to finish this book, and I kind of had to force myself to finish it.
And the ‘romance’ between Halvard and Tova, I hated it. I’m all here for “fated to be together” but I didn’t buy it for one second. It felt too forced, and definitely not enough time passed for even “fated feelings” to happen. Feeling an inexplicable pull? I scoff.
Also, I didn’t even expect there to be a love interest, let alone a male point of view. Based on the synopsis, I thought the book would be about Tova learning who she is, and what her purpose is. While, yes she does these things, it feels rushed and cheap? I think the synopsis sells this book as something it’s not, and that’s a problem. The book I imagine in my head after reading the synopsis, is not the one I read.
And maybe this is explained in Sky in the Deep but the weirdly close relationship between Halvard and Eelyn? For someone who inexplicably drawn to the Kyrr Girl (Tova) he’s got a weirdly close bond and it came across as he liked her more than “just friends/family”. I definitely acknowledge that I might just be missing a part from Sky in the Deep, but it just felt weird.
And Halvard, let’s talk about him for a second. Not a fan. He felt more like a little kid pretending to be a mature adult than, actually being a mature (or slightly mature) adult. I get not wanting to accept mantels, and filling someone’s shoes when you don’t feel like you’re ready, but he just felt not ready. At all. The fact that he ends up in the position he ends up in at the end of the book, and everyone is like, super fine with it, just makes no sense! In a world were status is determined by strength and power, and Halvard has yet to even fight in a battle, and he’s chosen for that position. I scoff again. I don’t buy it.
AND the ending was way too happily ever after. I get it, fate and all that, but COME ON. Literally every character, well the ones who mattered, got what they wanted, whether it was to survive, or die, or be with who they want. Only the antagonist’s got what they deserved.
I think this book would have either 1) benefitted from being a little longer, so there is more time with the characters, so the stakes feel higher, and 2) some more editing to make the story a little more seamless and make the time jumps not so jarring. I wanted to desperately like this book. It sounded so good, but honestly fell so short. I think my rating of 3 stars is generous and I think the concept of what this book could’ve potentially been, is the thing saving it from a lower rating.
Sigh. I don’t know. The more I think about this book, the more it irks me. I need to just end this review here, before I start screaming. I thought it was going to be so good, and it just wasn’t. Will I read other books by Adrienne Young? Possibly, maybe if they aren’t set in this world, but I highly doubt I’ll read Sky in the Deep any time soon. I would say, if you read the first one, you should probably check this one out, hopefully you like it more than I did. This is probably not a book I’ll be adding to my personal library, despite how much the cover makes me want to buy it.
Though, if you have read it, and did read the first one, let me know your thoughts. I felt like I grasped enough of what the first one was about to comfortably read this book, but maybe I’m wrong. Let me know in the comments.